The Sandy Springs City Council has learned that municipalities cannot regulate bowhunting, despite pleas from residents who complained about hunters trespassing and fear for their children and pets.
Several residents asked the City Council to pass the ban during a public hearing at a recent meeting. The board devoted its work session to the topic and heard more comments during its regular session on December 20. Some residents said deer and coyotes pose a threat to their property and families.
City Attorney Dan Lee said the Georgia Constitution prohibits local governments from regulating hunting. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is the state’s hunting and wildlife management agency.
According to him, a ban on the use of firearms has been introduced.
“DNR lawyers take the position that even an ordinance restricting the use of firearms in the city is unconstitutional when applied to hunting,” Lee said.
John Bowers, a career wildlife biologist with the Division of Wildlife Resources, told the council that the General Assembly extended the archery season to Jan. 31 to help reduce the growing deer population.
A local lawmaker wants cities to be empowered
Josh McLaurin introduced the bill in the 2021-2022 session of the Georgia General Assembly to allow cities to regulate the use of bows and arrows. Died in committee. He told the Sandy Springs Reporter he wasn’t sure if the bill would gain traction, but remained interested in its passage. As he is sworn in as a state senator in January, he will need to introduce a new bill to the Senate for passage.
“There are huge private property and safety issues that arise when people travel to areas where they don’t live to kill wild animals for sport. And there are other ways to control the deer population than assigning unknown bowhunters to go around people’s yards,” McLaurin said.
The biggest complaint against a game warden is for illegal trespassing
If hunting is banned, expect an increase in landscape damage and deer-vehicle collisions, Bowers said.
Game Warden Brock Hoyt, whose assignment includes Sandy Springs, said the biggest questions he gets about hunting are about property and firearms. He said hunters must obtain permission from property owners to hunt on their land. About 50 cases of unauthorized violation are brought against him every year.
If a wounded deer wanders onto another land, the hunter cannot cross over to that land.
“If a deer runs into an adjacent area, that person will also need to ask your permission to get into that area,” Hoyt said.
“How do I make sure hunters know my property is off limits?” Mayor Rusty Paul asked.
Hoyt confirmed that in Georgia, property is considered no-hunt unless the owners give express permission. He recommends they get it in writing.
Lee said when cities ban hunting in parks, they are exercising the property owner’s right to limit hunting access.
He recommended the city council not to take measures on bow hunting.
Councilwoman Melody Kelly said she received 32 emails from her District 2 constituents who live in the north part of the city and west of Roswell Road, which borders the Chattahoochee River on the west.
Residents cite problems with hunters and coyotes
John Zammer of the Huntcliff Unit shared a few bowhunting challenges. He said members of bowhunting clubs and other hunters come to the neighborhood looking for trophies.
“We’ve had arrows found that hit our houses and we’ve found deer in our backyards,” he said.
They can reach speeds of up to 200 miles per hour and can travel up to 1,000 yards, Zamer said.
“It’s well established that killing a few bucks only extends the mating season for the rest of the deer, and there’s an overpopulation problem in the community,” Zamer said.
“My final point is this is not a bow and arrow issue. It should not be seen as an animal problem. We are not asking you to regulate hunting. This should be done by the state,” he said. “We are asking you, in accordance with your primary duty to ensure public safety, to ban the use of bows and arrows in the city.
Meredith Powers of the Spalding Lake subdivision has a different concern. She wants more control over the deer and coyote populations in the community.
“Deer are a big nuisance and cause damage. But coyotes have affected the quality of life for the residents of our area,” she said.
Coyotes make residents afraid to let their children play in their yards and afraid to walk their dogs, she said. She does not leave the house without a “barrage of weapons”, including a whistle, sticks, clubs and a loud noisemaker.
Short-term and long-term plans to balance wildlife are needed, she said.
Bow hunting is safer and more effective than hunting with a rifle in areas where there are children and leashed dogs, Powers said.
Melinda Freeman said deer overpopulation is threatening forests in the town where she lives.
“Deer archery is the only form of birth control we can use to name our deer population,” she said. “The deer’s favorite food is young bark. And in our community, especially in my yard, I’ve noticed that deer have successfully killed a decade of new tree growth.”